During March 10th and 11th, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) jointly with the International Trade Center (ITC) co-organized the first symposium on Trade Finance for the Pacific Region, in partnership with the OACPS, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the European Union. The event brought together participants to discuss and strengthen platforms for engagements between the Pacific private sector and global experts to enable resilient recovery through innovative and accessible trade finance.
Dame Meg TAYLOR, PIFS Secretary General, lamented that a key challenge continually faced by the Pacific Region is the lack of information to be able to capitalise on private sector opportunities in trade financing, opportunities which often need to be contextualized to match the characteristics of the Pacific Region. For example, the threshold to access finance for a bankable project with financing institutions makes it impossible for most of the region’s MSMEs to be eligible. Dame TAYLOR also pointed out that South-South cooperation and intra-ACP exchange of best practices are important as the Pacific is keen to learn from Caribbean and African experiences. “The adoption of friendly and flexible regulatory frameworks to access finance is crucial to boosting Pacific trade performance regionally and globally and to recover from COVID-19”, indicated PIFS Secretary General.
The Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy (PAfTS) 2020-2025 is guided by four principles: strategic regional impact; prioritization; leveraging existing policies and mechanisms; and ownership. In line with these guiding principles, the Strategy focuses on mobilising Aid for Trade resources for projects in the four thematic priority areas of services; electronic commerce; comprehensive connectivity and deepening Forum markets.
The International Trade Center provides a full range of support for SME’s to encourage inclusive trade. The strategy communicates a clear direction towards building sustainable trade focused on increasing value added to trade, as highlighted by Pamela Coke Hamilton, ITC’s Executive Director, who explained that the strategy aims to maximize the earning potential for communities’ economies and capitalize on the uniqueness of island products, services and heritage. Island enterprises need to find niche opportunities in their export markets where customers are able to pay for the quality and uniqueness of the Pacific islands.
Highlighting the importance of the private sector as a main development actor, H.E. Mr. Georges Rebelo Pinto Chikoti, Secretary General of the OACPS, declared that the Organisation is working towards an international trade order that guarantees just treatment of all members while providing a level playing field for SIDS and landlocked countries. He mentioned the establishment of an “Early Warning Mechanism” for Trade regulations changes. Another instrument put in place to support Private Sector Development is a 154M Euro Value Chain development programme, funded under the 11th EDF intra-ACP resources; and the OACPS Business Forum which is going to be set up to enable the private sector to contribute to ongoing reforms.
As trade capacity is crucial for the region, in January 2021 the EU and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat signed a new project entitled “Strengthening Pacific Intra-Regional and International Trade (SPIRIT)”, which aims at boosting and increasing intra-regional and international trade by strengthening institutional and technical capacity in the region. H.E. Mr. Sujiro Seam, Head of the EU Delegation to the Pacific said that the project will facilitate the implementation of trade agreements, in particular the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the PAfTS.